Whisky Review: Duncan Taylor Dimensions Cameronbridge 33-Year-Old Single Grain Whisky - The Whiskey Wash
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Whisky Review: Duncan Taylor Dimensions Cameronbridge 33-Year-Old Single Grain Whisky

Cameronbridge is the oldest grain distillery in Scotland, and the largest grain distillery in all of Europe, but ask the average whisky drinker about the last time they tasted some Cameronbridge spirit, and you’ll probably get a quizzical look. For such a major component of the Scotch whisky industry, it doesn’t get a lot of press, and bottlings that bear the Cameronbridge name are few and far between.

The distillery is owned by Diageo, and, in fact, was an original member of Distillers Company Limited, the alliance of nine Scotch distillers formed in 1877 that would eventually become Diageo. Yet Cameronbridge was founded well before then, in 1824 by William Haig. The Haig family had already been in the distilling industry for generations, and the 1820s were a time of innovation and growth in the Scotch whisky industry, particularly in the Lowlands, as legislation that required distilleries to use pot stills was rolled back.

Cameronbridge was the very first Scottish distillery to use a patent still, installing a model that was designed by William’s cousin, Robert Stein. This was even before Aeneas Coffey launched and patented his eponymous continuous still, although once that version was introduced Cameronbridge installed a couple of those as well.

Today, Cameronbridge produces an astonishing amount of whisky—120 million liters of alcohol per year, or 40,000 liters per hour. Reportedly, the whisky is produced from a mash of 90% wheat and 10% malted barley, distilled to 93.8% alcohol, just shy of the legal maximum of 94.8%. It’s proofed down to 68.5% before barreling.

Much of Cameronbridge’s whisky ends up in major blends like Johnny Walker, Bell’s, J&B, White Horse, and others, although it does offer one official bottling of single grain whisky called Cameron Brig. Cameronbridge is also the source of Haig Club, the David Beckham-backed whisky introduced a few years back named for the distillery’s founder. And if that weren’t enough, Cameronbridge also makes neutral grain spirit used for the production of some prominent clear and sweetened spirit brands, including Gordon’s Gin, Tanqueray, and Smirnoff.

This release is a rare independently bottled expression of Cameronbridge spirit, aged 33 years in used American oak casks. Old single grain whisky like this isn’t common, but it is a relatively economical way to get your hands on some very well-aged whisky, and some of it is quite delicious. Will this one be tasty? Let’s find out.

Tasting Notes: Duncan Taylor Dimensions Cameronbridge 33-Year-Old Single Grain Whisky

Vital Stats: 33 years old, 47.8% ABV. Distilled Feb 1979, bottled Sept 2012. Cask no. 55, bottle 32 of 237. Not colored or chill filtered

Appearance: Amber, with a slightly greenish tinge.

Nose: Right after I opened the bottle, the nose was really sweet – vanilla, marshmallow, crème brulee. But after sitting for a few weeks, the aroma changed significantly, taking on more depth. There’s red fruit, melon, butterscotch, old oak, candle wax, and a touch of floor polish. Not overly dense or complex, but still quite pleasant.

Palate: Like the nose, the palate balances appealing sweetness with a welcome touch of darker, stranger flavors. At first, there’s birthday cake with vanilla frosting. That transitions to a smoky note of patchouli and sandalwood incense. Then, it’s back to the world of sweetness with a burst of ripe fruit: Mirabelle plums, melon Hi-Chew, and that guava hard candy they give out at Vietnamese restaurants. Finally, a long, tapering finish brings mature oak and a slightly spicy rye crisp topped with a hearty slick of butter.

The Takeaway

While this release retains some of those light, sweet flavors grain whisky is known for, it’s sufficiently ornate to keep single malt drinkers intrigued. There’s something exotic about this deep cut - the interplay between sugary sweetness and smoke, or the way the palate moves from one distinct flavor to the next in an orderly, sequential way. Recommended, especially for those who are skeptical of grain whisky’s ability to deliver anything resembling real flavor.

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